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USA Regulators to decide on future of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Facility

California law forbids building more nuclear plants in the state until the federal government comes up with a long-term solution for dealing with the radioactive waste.

The commission has called two hearings in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 5 to take public comments on issues that should be covered in an environmental impact study on the license renewal project. A draft of the study will likely take a year to complete, according to a schedule the commission sent PG&E in April. A final decision on the license renewal likely won’t arrive before mid-2017, according to the schedule.

Feds to decide whether state’s last nuclear plant stays or goes, SF Gate,  By David R. Baker, July 8, 2015 Federal regulators have restarted the process of deciding whether California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, will remain open for decades. And like most everything else in Diablo’s long, contentious history, the move is sure to provoke a fight.

Diablo nuclear power plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reported that it would once again begin processing a request from plant owner Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to renew Diablo’s operating licenses, set to expire in 2024 and 2025. That request has been on hold since shortly after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster rekindled fears of nuclear danger.

PG&E applied in 2009 to renew Diablo’s licenses for 20 years, arguing that California would need the plant near San Luis Obispo to combat climate change. The commission’s license extension process takes years to complete — hence, PG&E’s early application……….

The license renewal process, which will include public hearings and testimony, will also give the plant’s vocal opponents another chance to make their case.

Spying an opening  Activists who never wanted Diablo in the first place have been pushing hard to close it, particularly after California’s only other commercial nuclear plant — San Onofre, north of San Diego — shut down in 2012.

They argue that PG&E has consistently underestimated earthquake threats to the plant, and that PG&E has a long record of snafus at Diablo, such as replacing the steam generators and vessel heads without first conducting a necessary seismic test. PG&E, in contrast, says the plant boasts a solid safety record.

“Our point is, this is a pattern with them,” said Jane Swanson, with Mothers for Peace. “They keep screwing up — and this is a nuclear plant.”

California law forbids building more nuclear plants in the state until the federal government comes up with a long-term solution for dealing with the radioactive waste. ………

State will have a say

Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission bears primary responsibility for regulating the nation’s nuclear plants, California officials will have a major say in Diablo’s future.

Renewing the plant’s license would require the consent of the California Coastal Commission. And the California State Water Resources Control Board could vote later this year on whether to require Diablo to change its cooling system, possibly by building cooling towers that one controversial study commissioned by PG&E estimated could cost $12 billion.

Perhaps as a result, a PG&E spokesman on Tuesday said the company had not yet decided to push ahead with securing all the necessary California permits for extending Diablo’s operations.

“To be clear, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is moving forward with its review, PG&E has yet to move forward on the California portion of the license renewal process as we continue to consider feedback on recent seismic research,” said spokesman Blair Jones.

The commission has called two hearings in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 5 to take public comments on issues that should be covered in an environmental impact study on the license renewal project. A draft of the study will likely take a year to complete, according to a schedule the commission sent PG&E in April. A final decision on the license renewal likely won’t arrive before mid-2017, according to the schedule.

David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: dbaker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @DavidBakerSF http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Feds-to-decide-whether-state-s-last-nuclear-6371664.php

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July 11, 2015 - Posted by | politics, USA

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